May 30, 2005

The Mel Hall Game

If you are a somewhat older Red Sox fan, you probably know what game I'm referring to: Yankee Stadium, Memorial Day, May 27, 1991.

Back then, good tickets were always available and my partner Laura and I were were sitting in the back of the main grandstand on the third base side.
Red Sox         Yankees
Burks cf RKelly cf
Quintana 1b Sax 2b
Boggs 3b Mattingly 1b
Clark dh Maas dh
Greenwell lf Hall lf
Brunansky rf Nokes c
Pena c Barfield rf
Reed 2b Espinoza ss
Rivera ss PKelly 3b

Darwin p Eiland p
The Red Sox scored first. Jack Clark's grounder was bobbled by Pat Kelly for an error. Mike Greenwell singled to right center and he and Clark advanced to second and third when Roberto Kelly booted the ball for another error. Tom Brunansky's fly ball to the track in right brought in the game's first run.

At this point, an apparently tipsy Red Sox fan in the section across the aisle from us started yelling to any person in a Yankee hat he could see, "One run! That's it! That's all we need!" He kept this up as Tony Pena tripled and Jody Reed doubled. Boston now led 3-0 and this guy kept insisting -– loudly -– that the game was over. "Might as well go home!" After awhile, fans of both teams were laughing at him.

Boston scored single runs in the fourth and fifth and led 5-0. As I recall, the drunk guy got quiet after the third inning or so. I don't think he actually went to sleep, but I don't remember him yelling anything for several innings.

The Yankees got solo home runs from Jesse Barfield (in the 5th) and Mel Hall and Barfield again (in the 7th) to cut the lead to 5-3. After that second Barfield homer, Jeff Gray relieved Danny Darwin. Gray got out of the inning and retired the Yankees in order in the eighth, and turned the ball over to closer Jeff Reardon.

I remember not being particularly secure in seeing Reardon come into the game. I have scanned the bottom of the ninth portion of my scorecard.

Hensley Meulens, who took over for Don Mattingly at first base in the sixth inning (why?), fouled off the first pitch, took a ball, then singled through the hole between third and short into left field. Kevin Maas took a strike, fouled a pitch off and then hit a hard shot right back at Reardon. The Sox pitcher knocked it down, but had no play. Hall was next and he lined a 2-2 pitch three or four rows deep in the right field stands for game-winning home run. New York 6-5.

After Maas got the infield hit, the ending seemed almost inevitable. Naturally, the crowd went berserk. Back then, the Yankees often played "Shout!" after victories, so everyone was jumping around, high-fiving, punching the air, etc. I was shaking my head at the obviousness of it all.

Our drunk friend was also standing and watching the celebration. He was taking a fair amount of ribbing. Suddenly, Laura danced across the aisle, laughing, and started pointing her fingers at him in time to the music. Hence, my little "L very happy" note on the scorecard.

Afterwards, she was pretty surprised she had done it; it was more impulse than anything else and it was certainly more light-hearted than obnoxious. People in the nearby rows were amused, as was the Sox fan. He broke a smile, maybe even laughed a little. It's never wise to say a game is in the bag in the top of the second inning.

It was a loss, but it was still one of the funnier experiences I've had at Yankee Stadium. As often happens with incidents like this, "There's one! That's all we need!" has lived on in our house for the last 14 years.


Anonymous said...

Good story. This week over here in Europe, with Liverpool losing the Champions League final 0-3 at half time, which in football (soccer) means you're pretty much dead and buried, their fans were heard to be singing "We're going to win 4-3". Ring any bells? Well, they stormed back to 3-3 during the second half, and then won on penalties. As you say, never count your chickens!

Jere said...

I was there, too. Age fifteen. I think it was Steve Sax poster day, but I could be wrong. I also remember seeing "May 31th" instead of "31st" on the message board. (They must've been advertising the next series, starting May 31st vs. the Brew Crew--thanks, which would make sense, as last night I was at the Stadium, and they advertised the next series then as well.)

The crazy thing was how Hall's homer went into the mezzanine, almost physically impossible, as you have to hit it on a line and HARD. As Mel did. Terrible.

Mattingly must have gotten hurt, because he missed the next six games as well. He also missed a game later that year, benched for an illegal mullet.

Also interesting that the yanks played three doubleheaders in a row later that season.

Isn't baseball great?

Jake said...

I remember, that debacle as well as another one that same era (I think even the same series????) where Roberto Kelly (?) went OFF in the late innings to kill a sox win with Reardon on the hill.

Pat said...

Oh my.....I have tons of memories of soooooo many Red Sox/Yankees' games that I have attended over the years. "Thanks for the memory." I long for those games again - have not been to one in years, at least not since I have lived in Paris, France for the last 6 years. Relying on blogs such as yours for the baseball news, as well as the internet. BTW - love your blog!!!!

Marc D. Chapman said...

Wow, I was also at this game.

In fact, i was writing an email about it and trying to decide what to call it. I had met another person who had refered to it as the "Mel Hall Game", I've also heard it just referred to as "The Memorial Day Game". It remains the only game I've ever seen at Yankee Stadium (I'm from Bismarck, ND and/or Minneapolis, MN) and as a die hard Yankee fan its emblazoned in my mind.

Don Mattingly got hurt in the first inning sliding into second base stretching out a double. From what I remembered, he came out almost immediately, but apparently he tried to stay in for awhile before officially coming out. Apparently, the years have not been quite so kind for the exactness of my memory.

Thanks for the trip down amnesia lane (and the memory of the one good thing that happened for the Yankees between 1989 and 1993).


Brendan said...

I remember this game like it was yesterday. I remember Hall taking the low-inside pitch and just screaming it down the line (though I recall it wrapping around the pole and landing in one of the first couple rows, not the mezzanine, but it was a long time ago). I remember Hall thrusting his open hands into the air and taking a couple of tentative steps before breaking into a trot.

And I'm a Yankees fan so this has the most positive of connotations for me, especially considering how bad they were in the early '90s. Anyway, I'm really glad someone else remembers this and has preserved the memory.

PolarBear231 said...

Hey man - I was at that game too! All of 14 years old and in the bleachers with two friends for the first time without parental supervision. As a Bronx native, I am no stranger to foul language or hurling things at people (go ahead, have at it...), and I was taking full advantage of my freedom that afternoon by hurling considerably more than profane insults at Reardon as he warmed up in the bullpen. He was actually forced back inside a few times as the barrage of ketchup, mustard and mayo packages, sodas (no one was wasting a beer on a Boston player) and whatever else that cost nothing and could be thrown showered down upon him.

Reardon went into the game and the stadium was on FIRE. Everyone went apesh*t when Meulens got on to start it off. By the time Reardon came in to pitch to Maas, it was insanity. Maas didn't just hit a liner back at the mound, he hit a BOLT OF LIGHTNING that almost took Reardon out of the living realm. The poor guy didn't so much as try and catch the ball as he covered himself for protection. Ball went one way, glove went another and up came Hall.

I'l never forget watching that bullet go sailing into the right field stands and the way the stadium was literally throbbing and booming with the noise and all the motion. Late afternoon in teh Bronx never looked, sounded or felt so good to kid.

Thanks for making sure this game is out there, preserved somewhere. It's one of my favorite memories!